Why do we have a pitcher’s circle in softball?
If you watch a Major League baseball game on TV, you will notice that the players and umpires call a lot of time-outs – almost every time a pitch hits the ground or after ball four, as well as when the ball is thrown back into the infield after a hit. This is done even with runners on base.
In softball, after the ball is hit or after a non-contacted pitch, the play “officially” ends after all runners have stopped on a base AND the pitcher has possession of the ball in the circle. That is one reason why softball umpires are not supposed to suspend play until that happens. From the NCAA rule book, and all codes have a similar rule:
“The umpire shall not suspend play until a play has been completed except in the case of significant injury to a player in which case the umpire may use discretion to immediately stop play.”
Do not Hesitate to Call this Rule – the Look-Back Rule
The purpose of the pitching circle is to control the actions of the batter-runner and base runners as part of the Look-Back Rule. This rule is designed to speed up the game and eliminate any cat-and-mouse games between runners and the pitcher. It requires runners to get on their bases in a timely manner after all continuous play has stopped so the next pitch can be thrown.
All major codes have a separate section of their base running rule which deals with the regulations of the look-back rule. It is such a controversial rule that USA includes it in their Rules Supplement and NCAA has gone to great lengths to specify exactly what the batter-runner can do after overrunning first base.
There are two major components to the look-back rule.
• Pitcher has possession of the ball in the circle during a live ball
• The batter-runner and runners’ obligations once the pitcher has control of the ball in the circle.
These components are covered in separate articles on this Locker Room.